Aug 15, 2018

Le Palais at Palais de Chine Hotel - Taiwan's Very First Three Michelin Star Restaurant

Located inside Palais de Chine Hotel, the very first time I set my foot here was trying to look for a nice and quiet place for tea. Possibly due to its central location to all public transportation, the hotel was very crowded, so my peaceful time was out of the question. Me and my friend turned to other solution instead.


Years passed, I was here again, squeezed my way out of the jam-packed lobby, some things never change. Into the elevator all the way up to the 17th floor, where I finally found tranquility.


This time around, I came for star-studded lunch at Le Palais. Reservation opens up one month ahead. Maybe because I called right away, there weren't any issues getting a table for a weekend lunch.


Deposits required when making a reservation, $500 NTD, about $16.3 USD per head, which will deduct from the final bill later on. Slightly troublesome, but if such system prevents no show and any possible food waste, I'm all for it.


Door opens at 11:30 a.m. sharp. We arrived early, so instead of heading to other floors or back to the noisy lobby, might as well as wait here. There was a bench near the restroom, but a couple already took that spot. No other seats were available near the entrance. Well, there was a bicycle but who dare to cross legs over. 


Minutes passed, right on time, we were led to our table.


It was like venturing into another space and time, completely different from the noise downstairs. Inside Le Palais, where I felt like being invited to an ancient emperor or higher-up's home. But a few classic western touches can be spotted in fine details, a seamless integration between two elegant times.


And before any Chinese delicacies, we were presented with an array of art-like tableware, it was a feast for the eyes.


Even the tip of the spoon was decorated with colorful butterfly.


Wipes were served first table-side by pouring water into the cup, so that the wipes expand right on the spot.



Meal started off with hibiscus vinegar -


Very high in acidity, but then paired with the same intensity of sweetness, so this little appetizing drink was able to reach the balance way up high.


Beautiful menu cover -


I didn't take pictures of the dishes listed inside, but you can refer to hotel's link for Le Palais a la carte items.

There were two set menus designed around their Michelin star fame, both came with hefty prices, $8,800 NTD/$285 USD and $12,800 NTD/$415 USD. Both set courses only offer for two people and up, and the more luscious one needs to be reserved at least three days in advance.

The manager was the one in charge of taking our orders that day, friendly and professional. She recommended some dishes for us, especially there were only three of us, some famed dishes came in large portions and won't suit our needs.


However, among all the dishes, one thing I liked the most wasn't on her recommendation list - steamed water cress and salty egg dumplings.


The green filling wasn't the common spinach, instead, it was steamed water cress. Water cress has a soft texture, just like spinach, the leaves wilt when in contact of heat. But the stem bits inside still holds a gentle crunch. 

Different eggs were used as filling, when salty egg provides savory note, the infamous Chinese ingredient - century egg was also incorporated. Absolutely no such thousand-year old taste whatsoever, but filled with umami. In addition, it was hidden nicely inside the dumplings. Highly recommended for all first timers who never dare to try century egg before, this dish will convert you.

The wrapper was another highlight, tender like baby's cheek yet bouncy like it's been injected with collagen. In fact, I've never tried such texture even from all the other great dim sum places I've went.

Daikon radish puff pastry -



Look at those layers, a more accurate term should be mille feuille style puff pastry.


Chinese stock-like aroma, the kind made with Chinese dried ham, the scent leaked through moist radish filling, tasting it somehow made me feel like enjoying a bowl of finely braised Chinese soup.

I also reserved this barbecue pork when booking the table -


Manager explained that this barbecue pork was made with Taiwan black pig, using the center section from the shoulder, so precious that one pig can only made two portions of Le Palais' signature barbecue pork.


It might not be as famous, but Taiwan does produce one of the finest pork out there, clean taste with just the right balance of fat and lean meat, and the best part is that bouncy texture. All the good qualities presented through chef's skills onto this plate.


Talking about texture, believe it or not, even though it's barbecue pork, but the bite truly feels like free range chicken thigh, chewy but not dry, instead, bouncy and moist.

Stir-fried tiger grouper filet with American asparagus - 


Supposedly pickle olive leaves should be the main veggies here, but it was substituted with American asparagus.


Each plump fish was coated with a layer of slightly gooey sauce, guessing it was seasoned with Chinese style stock, so every bite was like a gentle umami burst in mouth. It's not easy to cook fish to this level, otherwise I can imagine more steak lovers converting to seafood.

For every dishes swapped, so did our plates. Clean and warm every time.

Wok-fried rice with shrimp and barbecue pork -


Sounds simple, but the hardest part about fried rice is that every grain should be separated, creating that dry and fluffy sensation, as opposed to ingredients sticking to one another. Think of it as a very thin airy gap between all the elements. And by far, this is the fluffiest fried rice I've ever tried.


Boiled beef in hot pepper sauce -


Not as pungent and tingling as spicy hot pot, but in a more refined way to showcase the spices.


And if you're an intestine lover, it was indeed "plump" and flavorful, fully soaked up the seasonings and not over-powering by red oil. 


Deep-fried cheese pastry -


We were presented with all the Chinese dishes in Asian ways, so all the sudden this fried snack showed up in a spiral stand with paper wrap, definitely caught our attention.


The direct translation from its Chinese name should be "fried tofu milk." But of course it still got that mild cheesy filling, and the dough was dusted with sugar powder.


Rather light but delightful ending to our meal, not too heavy, just the right amount of sweetness and creamy sensation. It was fun to finish our last dish with our own hands too.

After paying the bill, the waitress carried our to-go food bag all the way to the front door. There, she waited while we used the restroom, and offered this -


"Babu," the name for traditional Taiwanese style ice cream, it was hidden inside that bicycle by the front door all along. What a pleasant surprise.


From there, the waitress also went into the elevator with us all the way till we need to get onto our taxi. 

Service was impeccable, and the food was definitely up there. The only complaint I had remained at the hotel lobby. So did Le Palais live up its three-star fame? According to the meaning of a three-star, that means the restaurant worth a specific trip to try. Think of it this way, if I'm from some other country, let's pick somewhere close by, Singapore, will I fly all the way just to dine at Le Palais? Mmm...perhaps not. But two-star honor, that I can do.


Le Palais (頤宮) currently holds three Michelin star status.


Le Palais (頤宮)
Floor. 17, No. 3, Section 1, Chengde Road, Taipei 103
+886 2 2181 9999
Hotel website: Le Palais at Palais de Chine Hotel 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LePalaisPalaisDeChineHotel/

*Reservation for the following month opens up on the first day of current month. For instance, starting August 1st, reservation throughout the end of September can be made. 

Opening hours:
Monday to Sunday lunch 11:30 a.m. ~ 2:30 p.m.
Monday to Sunday dinner 5:30 p.m. ~ 9:30 p.m.


Other Michelin starred restaurants in Taiwan:


Aug 9, 2018

Braised Chicken with Black Sesame Oil and Goji Berries 麻油枸杞雞

Goji berry is the name that most Chinese people are familiar with, but do you know that it can also be called as wolfberry?

Why wolf? Such cute little red berry doesn't feel as fierce as a wolf. Following a brief research, I found out that goji berry is actually a type of wolfberry, but except some specific types of goji berries, both goji berry and wolfberry carry similar color and taste. And many sellers use goji berry as a commercial name for wolfberry. With its mild sweetness and a slight hint of herbal note, goji berries can balance off the heaviness from the black sesame oil used in this recipe. Pop in one or two jujubes for stronger scent if preferred.

Braised chicken with black sesame oil and goji berries 麻油枸杞雞 - 



Ingredients?

  • 1/2 medium sized chicken (cut in large bite size pieces, bone-in, skin-on)
  • 12 pre-fried tofu cubes
  • 1/3 cup goji berries
  • 6 garlic cloves 
  • 4 ginger slices
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
  • Some chicken stock
  • Some black sesame oil
  • Some salt


How? 

Drench pre-fried tofu cubes with hot water, drain and set aside. This helps in drawing out excess oil from the tofu. Peel garlic cloves. 


Take a clay pot, drizzle sesame oil and add in whole garlic cloves, ginger slices, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Turn to medium high heat. Wait till the pot gets hot and sear these ingredients till aromatic and slightly browned.

Transfer chicken pieces to the mixture and give them a quick sear. Pour in rice wine and enough chicken stock to merely cover the chicken pieces. Also add in 1/2 teaspoon of salt again, along with tofu cubes, and goji berries. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to keep the mixture to a simmer, cover with lid. 

Cook for about 20 to 25 minutes, check and flip the chicken once a while so all sides can cook more evenly. Also make sure the liquid doesn't dry out, reduced is fine, but not completely gone. Taste and adjust with salt if needed.


These yellow tofu cubes actually taste better than the chicken, since all the juice and flavors got absorbed. Once taking a bite, some juice might get squeezed out, so watch out!


Other Chinese chicken recipes: